Did you know that Amazon.com is Staten Island’s largest private sector employer? Since 2017 Jeff Bezos’s company operates a $100 million, 855,000-square-foot fulfillment center that employs a 4,500 full-time workforce. Now Amazon.com has leased a second warehouse in the borough for distribution purposes. The new 450,000-square-foot building will be on Staten Island’s West Shore in Matrix Global Logistics Park, next to the first one.
Last year, Amazon abandoned its plans to locate a second headquarters in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City after facing a backlash over a state and city package of up to $3 billion in financial incentives. Although the company pulled the plug on that project, it said it would continue to add jobs in New York City, writes the WSJ.
Seven years ago, when we wrote “Tech and the City”, Staten Island barely existed on the digital map of New York. <<It’s too “uncool,” – we noted. – It has no appeal for the young people who are at the core of the metropolitan startups.>> The Staten Island’s best-known startup was the one founded in 1871 by Antonio Meucci, the Italian inventor of the telephone: it was a failure! We recommended a visit to Meucci’s museum to understand that even the most brilliant idea is useless unless it can find the capital to finance it.
“State and city officials, along with business leaders, have for years pushed to take advantage of the expertise at hospitals and universities in the area and diversify the local economy with biotech.”, write the Wall Street Journal today. “Yet efforts have faced barriers including scarce, costly real estate and a laboratory’s specialized ventilation and other needs, as well as a smaller pool of health-care venture investors compared with Boston and San Francisco.”
But yesterday health-care investment firm Deerfield Management Co. announced a move that could indeed help New York become a hub for the biotech industry. Deerfield “is investing $635 million to create a transformative life sciences campus in New York City, designed to integrate the capabilities of innovators from academia, government, industry and the not-for-profit sectors to tackle unmet needs in healthcare. Deerfield additionally announced that it intends to commit more than $2 billion in research and seed funding by 2030 to develop much-needed new and innovative medicines and treatment solutions.”
Deerfield has acquired the 345 Park Avenue South property (more than 300,000 square feet) that will become a “NYCLifeSci campus”.
The building construction and programming is being backed by the New York City Economic Development Corporation and Industrial Development Agency. It is expected to be in move-in ready condition for Deerfield and other innovators in healthcare by early 2021.
Deerfield, which manages nearly $10 billion, said it is aiming to repeat the success of the Alexandria Center for Life Science, among the first projects to bring drug-company laboratory research to New York City.
“Yet challenges remain for New York,” points out the WSJ: “San Francisco and Boston-area companies received more than two-thirds of life-science venture capital in 2017, and more than twice the number of life-science doctorates are earned annually in the Boston area than in New York, according to research by real-estate firm JLL.”
Since last July 15, seven Italian startup have been “training” at ERA – the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator in New York. They are into an intensive three months training, mentorship and networking program that is curated by the co-founder and managing partner of ERA, Murat Aktihanoglu.
The seven startups are part of the Global Startup Program that was created by the Italian Ministry of Economic Development and the Italian Trade Agency to support innovative Italian startups interested in entering the US market and, as such, foster new business opportunities and attract international investments in Italy.
The program in NYC will finish on October 4. On September 17, from 6 to 8 PM at the Italian Consulate in NYC – 690 Park Avenue – the seven startup will show & tell what they have accomplished so far. It will also be the occasion for a discussion about the tech community in New York, and the opportunities it offers to startups from abroad. These are the panelists: Iynna Halilou, ERA’s Global Program Manager; Jeffrey Libshutz, a managing partner at the private equity firm ArmaVir and vice chairman at the Italian Italian fixed wireless broadband provider Linkem; and Valentina Corbetta, a digital entrepreneur with strong Italian roots based in New York, founder of C.R.E.W Collective and co-founder of Family Collective and Hhype Collective.
Here you are the seven startups:
Avatr is a Personal Artificial Intelligence tool that combines different data streams from individuals and creates a single digital representation for each person, the Avatr profile. Patients can share their digital profile with doctors and health professionals, benefiting from highly personalized and enhanced medical services.
Caracolis a 3D Printing and Robotics Automation Systems company, able to work above the limits of traditional 3D printing using an extensive range of technologies and services, combining design and innovative materials to hardware and software for the industrial and the design sector.
Criptalia is an investment and crowdlending platform based on a peer-to-peer blockchain technology, serving companies and banks. This platform helps creating, exchanging and managing traditional financial assets such as debt, equity and commodities, and tokenizing them on a public blockchain.
Cydera is an innovative startup aiming to bring health services closer to the people, using new technologies and telecommunications. It operates in the healthcare industry, with the expertise of specialists, technicians in the medical and IT sectors, and collaborations with leading partners in the supply of hardware-software systems applied to healthcare.
Doralia.com is an e-commerce platform focussed on Made in Italy jewelry. Customers buy directly from goldsmiths (jewelery artisans) without intermediaries. Doralia works with a large number of Italian producers offering, both in the European and US markets, a comprehensive service and competitive prices for the most refined jewels in the world.
Plus Biomedicals is a biomedical startup offering an innovative new hair wash basin that, thanks to a multi-leaning arm, effectively addressing the needs of people with reduced mobility. The main market for this product are healthcare companies, nursing homes, retirement homes, home care providers and end users.
Gardenstuff and Soluzioni Tirinnanziis study and develop environmental integration systems while creating a sustainable urban ecosystem. Via the Gardenstuff.it portal, an online sales platform for innovative gardening products, this start-up offers its own branded products featuring and inspired by IOT (Internet of Things).
Happy birthday to Kickstarter that has just turned 10! In ten years this NYC company has helped bring 160,000 creative projects to life together with 16 million backers and creators.
Among the projects that were funded on Kickstarter: the game Cards against humanity; Beryl, a bike light laser that makes cyclists more visible at night; the investigative journalism outlet Bellingcat.
The project that I’m backing right now is “My Love Affair With Marriage“: Signe Baumane’s new animated feature film that infuses music and neuroscience into a personal story of love, gender and marriage.
This is the story of how Kickstarter was born, as we told it in “Tech and the City” (2013): <<The idea of founding it came to Perry Chen while he was trying to organize a concert. Chen, a fan of electronic music, in 2002 lived in New Orleans. He realized he needed a few thousand dollars, which he did not have, nor did he want to borrow money with the risk of not having enough of an audience to pay back his expenses. The solution would be—he thought then—to know beforehand how many people were willing to pay for tickets. Seven years of “wandering” went by from idea to startup, during which Chen was between New Orleans—the city of music and artistic entertainment—and New York—the city of “ambition,” as 36-years-old Chen likes to say. He found his partners by accident, while he was working as a waiter at a restaurant in Brooklyn: Yancey Strickler, a music journalist, and Charles Adler, a designer. The first investor was the actor David Cross, a cousin of a friend of Chen’s, who was followed by other friends in the arts.
Not surprisingly, music or movie production projects are the most popular on Kickstarter. (…) The mechanism is simple: anyone who has a project that fits Kickstarter’s guidelines (excluding investments, philanthropy and now some product categories) can submit it on the site explaining how much money it needs to raise and what it expects to give in return for the patron’s support (an autographed and personalized copy of the book being written, for instance); the idea has 60 days to collect enough commitments and, if it reaches its goal, the project is funded and the supporters’ credit cards are charged. Transparent and without risk for everyone involved. The average project costs $10,000, and the most common donation is around $10. But some initiatives have already collected over one million dollars. (…)
Chen describes Kickstarter as something between altruism and capitalism. People commit to contributing money not hoping for a gain, but because they like the idea or the people behind it; as compensation you expect an enjoyable experience or the satisfaction of having participated in the birth of a cool product. Kickstarter, on the other hand, is not a nonprofit organization: it is in the black, collecting 5% of the funds raised. And it counts among its backers the cream of American angel investors and venture capital funds, from Scott Heiferman of Meetup, to Jack Dorsey of Twitter, to Fred Wilson and Union Square Ventures, for a total of $10 million.
At the moment design and technology projects offered on Kickstarter account for only 5% of the total, but that number is growing quickly. It is a way for inventors to test their prototypes while minimizing risk and costs, turning directly to consumers and skipping traditional middlemen such as banks, who are more and more reluctant to provide funding. (…) >>
Our friend Paolo Merialdo, professor at the Engineering Department of the Roma 3 University, is the co-founder of InnovAction Lab, a program for college students who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs: in 4 years more than 800 students have been part of this program and more than 40 startups have been founded thanks of it. InnovAction Lab has evolved and is now an incubator: “Dock3 – the Startup Lab”.
Paolo almost every year brings some of his students to New York to learn about our startup community.
It’s great to know that one of the startups that were incubated by Dock3 was recently acquired by Apple. The startup is Stamplay and its focus – according to the co-founder Giuliano Iacobelli – is “Lego for APIs,” enabling a business’ developers to more simply connect both internal and external APIs to apps — effectively, enabling one app to offer features supplied by different developers.
Stamplay won Visa’s Everywhere Initiative API contest in 2016, and it was entrusted with an unspecified development project for the payments giant. Its experience in the financial payments industry may be the reason why Apple bought it (paying 5 million euros, according to rumors) , because digital payments are part of the services that are getting more and more important for Apple.
We wish all the best to Giuliano, who is in San Francisco: maybe he has already met the most important Italian working in Cupertino, Apple CFO Luca Maestri, and he has asked him some good advice…
New York was one of the top five global destinations for venture capital dollars in 2017. The number of venture capital deals in the city grew by 256 percent, and the amounts invested by 439 percent, since 2008. The analysis –released by Comptroller Stringer and based on data from Crunchbase – also detailed venture capital’s impact on the New York City economy, as venture capital flows to a wide range of businesses in and outside of the city’s legacy industries of finance, advertising, media, and culture that support roughly 355,000 jobs – building on the city’s existing economic foundations to modernize and reshape the way those industries will do business in the 21st century.
New York-based companies closed nearly 1,000 deals valued at a total of about $9.4 billion in 2017, up from $1.7 billion in 2008. That left New York behind only Silicon Valley and San Francisco in terms of total domestic capital raised.
Orin Herskowitz, executive director of Columbia Technology Ventures at Columbia University, said to the WSJ that the growth of accelerators, incubators and an increased focus on raw innovations by research institutions have helped the city develop a robust startup community.
“It’s completely true that the rise of venture capital availability in New York in the past couple years is truly breathtaking,” Mr. Herskowitz said. “I think it goes well beyond access to capital, though, in the sense that this is a much broader story about the way New York City has pivoted to become a truly world-class place to start and grow a company.”
<<“Last year, when I was raising my seed, this guy was like, ‘It must be really difficult for you to raise money, Shannon, because men dissociate intelligence from attractiveness,’” said Shannon McLay, 40, who has started a chain of financial coaching centers called Financial Gym. (…)
“I’ve heard, ‘I really love you, Chanel, I think you have an amazing company, but I think I might want to date you,’” said Chanel Melton, 31, the founder of a hair-extension company called RoseGold Pro. >>
Fortunately New York is the most friendly city to women entrepreneurs, as we wrote in “Tech and the City”: startups founded by women here are twice that in Silicon Valley or in London, as a percent of the total; out of 100 New York new high-tech companies, 20 are founded by women and 80 by men only, in Silicon Valley and London the ratio drops to 10-90.
Among other things, there is a women-only co-working club, The Wing, and there is Able Partners, a NYC venture capital firm that was started three years ago by Lisa Blau and Amanda Eilian as an early-stage investor in a number of female-founded companies. For example Able Partners has invested in The Wing and Goop.
According to the venture-tracking site Crunchbase, as of October 2017, women made up just 8 percent of investing partners at the top 100 VC firms. And last year, female founders received only 2.2 percent of the $130 billion in venture money invested in the United States, according to the analytics firm PitchBook and the advocacy organization All Raise.
One way to change this scenario, is for successful women to do what men do. “We need the old girl’s network,” said Linnea Conrad Roberts, the chief executive of Gingerbread Capital and a former partner at Goldman Sachs, as she waved to Ms. Blau. “If you think about the ecosystem that guys have, a Silicon Valley founder will make hundreds of millions of dollars and he doesn’t go home and retire; he starts putting it toward funding other companies.” Instead too often women like Ms Roberts, after retiring from Wall Street or similar powerful jobs, just do philanthropy.
On the other hand, I’m not sure NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s strategy is right: he has just announced that the City will invest $30 million in women-led start-ups through a program calledWE Venture, in coordination with private venture capital firms that have a track record in the area. It is exactly what former Mayor Mike Bloomberg avoided, rightly so: Bloomberg didn’t bet public money on startups, because it means choosing winners/losers; he developed the environment, the infrastructures, the “mood” that are vital to a startup ecosystem where the entrepreneurs themselves – women & men – are the most important protagonist. Bloomberg’s recipe was very successful. We’ll see about de Blasio’s.
“With this single investment I’m done. As soon as I get my liquidity event I will party like there’s no tomorrow.” This is what Brian Cohen told us in 2012, when Alessandro and I interviewed him for “Tech and the City”. The investment was in Pinterest, the popular social network used to share photos, organized as collections of pictures on a pin board. Founded in Palo Alto, Silicon Valley, by three youngsters under 30, and launched in March 2010, Pinterest has become one of the most visited sites. “I helped them start and guided them as a mentor to become what they are,” said Cohen, who is Chairman of the New York Angels since October 2011. He was one of the very first investors in Pinterest.
Now Pinterest is valued $12 billion or more and has just confidentially filed paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering that should happen in the next few months.
So, congrats to Brian Cohen! Can’t wait for a toast with you!
The New York Angels are the most active group of this kind of investors in the US. It’s very risky and tough job, Cohen explains: “I call it a contact sport. You have to be in contact with the business and the industry, so that you can really sense it. I used to say that I have a nose for news. I think the same way about angel investing: you develop a nose for it; you can smell it. There are many studies that say that there is a positive correlation between the amount of due diligence and the success of companies. Duh, you do more homework; you get better grades.” Cohen calls angel investing a “contact sport” also because those who practice it can get hurt and bleed, lose a lot of money due to the high rate of failure of startups and because it takes a long time, even ten years, before they can sell the shares. That’s why Cohen is against crowdfunding for startups.
Another exit for a NYC startup: Authorea, co-founded by the Italian astrophysics Alberto Pepe, has been acquired by Atypon, the leading online scholarly publishing technology company. “I want to bring sexy back to science”, Pepe said when he launch his startup in 2012 with Nathan Jenkins. “Our mission – Pepe now explains – has been the same from day one: to improve the ways in which researchers write and publish their work. We’ve felt that science writing and publishing are not as modern as they could be, which is why we built Authorea, so that research documents can exist on an open, online, data-driven, interactive platform.”
Atypon’s parent company is Wiley (listed at NYSE) that is pioneering Open Access, linked data, streamlined editorial processes, and HTML-first publishing among its authors. “Thanks to the acquisition – says Pepe – Authorea will receive a line of investment that will help us build stronger team and product. In short, Authorea is about to get a lot faster, more robust, and ultimately more valuable to all researchers.”
Authorea was the first startup created by an Italian that was able to raise money among NYC investors, thanks to the VentureOutNY program. “We raised a $600,000 seed round with a term sheet from New York Angels, with Brian Cohen and Alessandro Piol leading the pool of investors – remembers Pepe -. I met them at the VentureOutNY event on December 3, 2013. Cohen has a Master of Science and Technology Journalism and was interested in my scientific background; together with Piol he helped me elaborate a business plan, which was a difficult task for me”. Born in Manduria, where everybody, including his family, makes wine (the Primitivo), Pepe has always been fascinated by math, astronomy, astrophysics. Here is his story, as he told me: “After high-school, in 1998 I decided to go and study in London. I knew nothing about the Internet, or about how to apply to a British college. So when I went to UCL (University College London) in September, thinking I could immediately enroll and start my classes, I looked very naïf, but they liked my spirit, and they accepted me, provided that I would spend one year studying English. At UCL, I got my Bachelor degree in Astrophysics (2002) and my Master in Computer Science (2003).” “Then I went back to Italy where I worked for six months at CINECA (InterUniversity Consortium, Bologna) with the Scientific Computing and Data Visualization Group. From 2004 to 2006 I worked in Geneva, Switzerland, in the Information Technology Department at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research). At CERN, I dealt a lot with archives and I started cultivating the idea of an open access to science.” “In 2006 I moved to California, where I got my Ph.D. in Information Studies at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). My Doctoral dissertation was about “Structure and Evolution of Scientific Collaboration Networks in a Modern Research Collaboratory”: it’s the scientific foundation for my startup.” “In June 2010, after finishing my PhD, I met professor Alyssa Goodman, professor at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, in Cambridge, Massachusetts https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/~agoodman/ : after a ten minute conversation she hired me. So I did my Postdoctoral research at Harvard, where I stayed until four months ago, when I resigned in order to focus on my startup (Professor Goodman is on Authorea’s board as Senior Scientific Advisor). I founded Authorea in 2012 with Nathan Jenkins, whom I met in Geneva.”
Why did Pepe leave research at the university? “It was fun – he explains -, but sometimes the academic world changes very slowly. I’ve been doing research for the last 14 years, and I’ve published a couple dozen scientific papers, besides my Doctoral dissertation, which was awarded the prize as the best one in the fields of Info science and technology. So I know very well how the scientific publication business works and what’s wrong: we do 21st century research, but we write and disseminate the results with 20th century tools, which were created before Internet was invented. Even worse, we package the results in a 17th century format, the same that Galileo invented to communicate with his scientific community and with the church authorities. However, Galileo in his scientific articles included all data from his observations. That’s impossible today, with huge data, so we publish only a very superficial version of our data, giving a link to a server where the whole data are available. But that’s very static.” That’s why Pepe created Authorea, “a platform that let scientists create an article as a dynamic project, where all the results are transparent and include not only text but also images, data, and analysis”, he stresses. Authorea is based in NYC because in 2013 Pepe came to New York as Visiting Researcher in Astrophysics and Cosmology at NYU (New York University), and he fell in love with the city”.